Easy watching on Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime and more: uplifting TV and films to cheer you up
Happy new year! Gloomy, isn’t it? Stuck at home and cranking up the heating, we all need a bit of cheering up, so here are our favourite uplifting things to watch right now.
We’ve all been trying to get better at living in the moment and being #grateful over the last year - this gorgeous, moving and stunningly-soundtracked offering from Pixar drives that message home with the story of a struggling jazz musician who finds himself in the world of souls before they’re allocated a body, having to persuade Tina Fey’s fearful, cynical Soul 22 to embark on the adventure of life. Beautiful.
The Personal History of David Copperfield
Heartwarming isn’t a word we often reach for when describing Armando ‘The Thick of It’ Iannucci’s work (Brilliant? Yes. Filled with good cheer? Absolutely not) but his take on Dickens’ masterpiece is precisely that. Dev Patel is a delight as the title character, in an adaptation that zips joyfully through Dickens’ labyrinthine plot and hums with cheerfully unhinged energy. The star-studded supporting cast is captivating, too, from Tilda Swinton’s donkey-averse Betsey Trotwood to This Country’s Daisy May Cooper as Pegotty to Iannucci fave Peter Capaldi as Mr Micawber.
History of Swear Words
If someone suggested that Nicholas Cage front a programme about swearing from a cosy fireside you’d think they were f***ing drunk. And yet here it is. The documentary of dreams. Cage, a bunch of comedians and a selection of game but serious academics investigate the use and origins of the “silly putty” of the English language.
Closed after one preview of its first ever panto, the National Theatre has hitched up its bloomers and put the past behind it (see what we did there) to put the production online (oh yes it has, etc). Updated for 2021 by director Jude Christian and improv queen Cariad Lloyd, the classic London tale was on YouTube over Christmas but will be available to stream worldwide from Monday January 11 for six weeks.
What We Do in the Shadows
Vampire flatmates might sound like a nightmare but this American mockumentary sit-com, starring brilliant British actor-comics Natasia Demitriou and Matt Berry, is hilarious. It’s based on Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s 2014 film of the same name, but the combination of gothic horror and the banality of everyday modern life never gets old.
Yes, the sheer quantity of cheerleading and affirmation bestowed by the hosts (the “Fab Five”) on the subjects of this emotionally ramped up Changing Rooms-meets-What Not to Wear is preposterous, but that’s the fun. Kind, inclusive, caring and camp as all hell, this is a tear-jerking, intentionally hilarious riot that relentlessly brings out the best in everyone involved.
Parks and Recreation
If there’s one person who would actually still enjoy only being able to go to the park, it’s Leslie Knope. Played by Amy Poehler, she is the world’s most enthusiastic bureaucrat, working to improve the parks of Pawnee and loving Joe Biden before he was cool. With seven seasons to devour, she and her colleagues – stern moustache-wearer Ron Swanson, aspiring entrepreneur Tom Haverford and the constantly unimpressed April – will become your guiding lights over lockdown. And possibly inspire you to run for your local council in 2022.
Out of any number of uplifting movies available on Disney’s streaming platform, this one, about curious and determined young Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) and her attempt to save her island from a mysterious blight, is a favourite - due in no small part to Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s irresistible performance as self-obsessed Polynesian demi-god Maui. His big number, You’re Welcome, is an absolute hoot.
I’m About to Lose Control and I Think Joe Lycett
A stand-up comedy show that makes you feel like you’re being hugged by a hot water bottle while slightly drunk? Add it to the 2021 survival kit. In this show from 2018, Joe Lycett bounds on stage and has a chit-chat with the audience for a good ten minutes before he starts doing anything resembling a routine. Later he gets them to tweet him rude versions of the names of daytime TV presenters because why not? It’s all silly, gentle and jolly, and immensely comforting.
Call My Agent!
Don’t worry if you can’t be bothered to learn French on Duolingo this time round. Just watch Call My Agent! on Netflix, one of the wittiest, classiest and most underrated gems on the platform (with a fourth season coming soon). Following the shenanigans of a talent firm in Paris, the agents navigate the egos of their clients through everything from bad auditions to terrible tax returns. Each episode features a cameo from a French star, and celebs from Juliette Binoche to Isabelle Huppert have queued up to be on the show.
Mischief Movie Night In
Hurrah – just as it looked like we’d seen the last of live theatre for a while, larking-about professionals Mischief Theatre have come up with a livestreamed version of their show Mischief Movie Night. The company will come up with an improvised film, and the audience will still be able to help – some tickets include a ‘participation pass’ to enable contributions. But if you want to lie spreadeagled on your sofa and simply giggle away, that’s fine too.
The Masked Singer
The most unhinged light entertainment format to grace ITV’s Saturday night schedule is back for round two and better than ever, with a new cohort of singing celebrities disguised in bonkers costumes. It’s up to the panel of famous faces, including new judge Mo Gilligan, and viewers at home, to piece together the clues to work out who is lurking behind the disguise. The first two episodes have unmasked Sophie Ellis Bextor and actual Spice Girl Mel B, so all bets are off as to who else signed up in a fit of lockdown madness.
ITV, Saturdays at 7pm and streaming on the ITV Hub